There is a concept that you’ll find time and time again when you research world religions and ideologies. However, it’s not an intrinsically spiritual idea. Even atheists and agnostics put stock in it. That idea, expressed in various ways with countless names, is simple: the power of core beliefs. Our core beliefs guide us as individuals and drive the way we live our lives. If our core beliefs are negative, we breed negativity. If, on the other hand, we have positive core beliefs, good things happen.
This isn’t just some new age-y aphorism. It’s a well-established psychological phenomenon, supported both by scientific research and spiritual wisdom. Core beliefs are what we believe about ourselves, others, and the world. As a result, they dictate not only what we do, but what we see. A range of research has proven our visual perception changes with our mental perception. More than just how we see the world, though, our core beliefs determine how we act and how we react.
This is why it’s so important to foster core beliefs that uplift you. When life gets difficult, having a core of positivity can be the difference between giving up and overcoming. This isn’t to suggest that merely believing something makes it true; I’m not talking about The Secret. Understanding core beliefs won’t change the world, but it can change your relationship with it.
Are you wondering how to reduce the negativity in your life and develop a more positive outlook? I’ll explain how.
What Is a Core Belief?
Understanding core beliefs
To understand what core beliefs are, it’s helpful to know what they are not. For one, a core belief is not faith or political persuasion. Your core beliefs may lead you to a particular religious idea or political view, but they aren’t the same. Likewise, having positive core beliefs doesn’t just mean having a positive mindset. The ideas are linked, but your core beliefs are deeper than merely being happy. Even cheerful people can have negative core beliefs about others or the world.
So, what is a core belief? In psychology, core beliefs are what influence how we behave in difficult situations. In times of duress, your core beliefs can give you strength, or they can make things worse. Many of our core beliefs are formed as children. This is why psychologists often talk about “formative childhood experiences.” These experiences form the beliefs that will go on to determine how we act in life. Luckily, as adults, we can reformulate our core beliefs once we understand them.
Take, for example, a child whose parents were neglectful or cruel. It’s likely that that child will grow up believing they are worthless and unlovable. In adulthood, they may develop trust issues and have a pessimistic view of the world. This can solidify into bitterness; their relationships falter, and they face the world with a hard exterior. That’s just one common example of how core beliefs rooted in our youth can hamper us. But even people with happy childhoods can have negative core beliefs.
Why do core beliefs matter?
You might be thinking, “It doesn’t matter what I believe, the world really is a terrible place.” Well, perhaps, but consider the possibility that the world isn’t as bad as you, personally, see it. Literally. Recent research has proven that people in the midst of depressive episodes see less contrast. The world is actually less bright to them. Numerous studies in recent decades have proven suffering from depression and one’s perception of reality are closely linked.
Mental disorders like depression and anxiety can affect our core beliefs and vice versa. Our core beliefs can feed these disorders. One doesn’t necessarily cause the other, but it can become a vicious cycle. That is why psychologists often focus on core beliefs as a way of addressing anxiety disorders. If you can nurture more positive core beliefs, it can help you manage depression and anxiety. Doing so is not a cure-all, to be clear, but it can provide a measure of relief.
Choosing core beliefs
Though our core beliefs are often born in childhood, as adults we can choose to abandon the negative ones. That can be easier said than done for many, but it is doable. If you’ve found yourself in a cycle of negativity and poor decisions, it’s past time you try to change. Admittedly, the process of abandoning unhealthy core beliefs can be a painful one. After all, you’re essentially dismantling and rebuilding yourself. It’s like a mental surgery; you should expect it to hurt.
Don’t worry, though, it’ll be worth it. Welcoming more positivity into your life will make you happier. Furthermore, it can help you be more successful in your career and in your love life. That’s got to be worth trying, right?
Examples of Positive Core Beliefs that You Can Adopt
So, you’ve decided to make a change. You know you’ve got some unhealthy core beliefs that are holding you back, and you want to be better. But where do you begin? The starting point is identifying your negative core beliefs, after which you can then determine their opposites. Here is an example of a pervasive negative core belief:
- I’m unattractive
This is one of the most common negative core beliefs. Men and women struggle with feeling ugly, and it’s incredibly difficult to overcome. Entire industries exist to reinforce that you are unattractive and to make money off of that belief. It’s why even models and movie stars talk about feeling physically insecure. They have a negative core belief, and all the compliments and praise in the world can’t break through.
Some people will tell you, all you have to do is tell yourself you’re attractive. That might work for some, but sometimes you need to reframe it entirely. Everyone is different, so what works for others might not work for you. If you do believe you’re unattractive, here are examples of positive core beliefs you can adopt instead:
- I am attractive (it’s basic, but for some people, just repeating this as a mantra works)
- I have great qualities that I can accentuate
- Everybody feels insecure about their looks from time to time
- People are attracted to all kinds of different body types and physiques
These all can help you feel better about yourself, but they have different focuses. Recall that I explained that core beliefs are beliefs about ourselves, other people, and the world as a whole. The statements above cover all three. After identifying a negative core belief that you’re holding onto, do more than just replace it with its positive counterpoint. Build a wall of positive core beliefs to help you reconfigure your worldview and be a better you.
Other negative core beliefs could be, “Nobody really likes me” or “There’s no point in trying because I’ll never succeed.” These are just a couple of examples of thoughts that can burrow into the mind and distort your reality. By contrast, here is a sampling of positive beliefs that can help refute a negative worldview:
- I have a purpose in life
- My friends love me
- I have talent
- People are mostly good
- Hard times are not forever
- My anxiety is not a reality
- A failure is just a setback, and a setback is a chance for a fresh start
- No one expects me to be perfect
- There’s no expiration date on getting an education
- I deserve happiness
These are just a tiny selection of the types of positive core beliefs you can adopt. If you read them and immediately think they’re silly or foolish, ask yourself why? Investigate your core beliefs and determine if they are negative or positive. If they are negative, answer this question: could you be living a better life without them?
Finding Your Own Positive Core Beliefs
Look inside yourself
There is reality, and then there is your perception of reality. Since you were a baby, your understanding of the world has been filtered through that perception. We like to think that as we get older, we gain greater insight, which is generally true. Ideally, with experience and education, we will understand more. We'll accumulate wisdom. But, like a broken pair of glasses, if our core beliefs are skewed, so will that wisdom.
Changing your core beliefs means challenging your biases and preconceptions. It means admitting that you might be wrong about some things, that maybe you’ve been wrong most of your life. And it means accepting that you aren’t as hopeless as you’ve long believed. That may be the hardest pill to swallow for some. But once you have, you might just start seeing the world in brighter colors.
Recognizing that negative core beliefs are holding you back is a vital first step. It proves you are capable of introspection; not everyone is! From there, though, the real work begins, and it won’t be easy. You’ll be challenging foundational beliefs, beliefs that you have almost certainly had since childhood. There will be a voice in your head that will tell you this is a pointless endeavor. Maybe you’re hearing it as you read this. For the moment, ignore it.
Determine what you want
After you have done some self-reflection and taken stock of your core beliefs, your next step is changing them. What you change them to is entirely dependent on what you want to achieve. Are you trying to be someone who is more assertive? Bolder? Kinder? Or maybe you just want to be someone who accomplishes more in life. Having positive core beliefs can help you achieve all of that and more. What core beliefs you choose to embrace is entirely up to you.
Keep in mind that positivity doesn’t have to mean naivety. You can have positive core beliefs and still recognize that the world isn’t perfect. All the positivity in the world won’t stop bad things from happening. But they will help you navigate the ups and downs of life. So, the next time the proverbial shit hits the fan, you won’t break down. You’ll keep going, with resilience and inner peace.
Be honest: have you found yourself feeling hopeless and bitter? If so, it’s time you changed your core beliefs.